This is one fun car to drive, even stock. With aftermarket items (shocks, springs, etc.), it is even better! Although the EPA gas mileage is 29 MPG on the highway (for 1996), I get 34 to 36 MPG on the highway. Combined with the reliability of all Miatas, the cost of ownership is very affordable. Note that this is not a fast car. Even my 04 minivan can out run the 96 Miata on a straight road (0-60). However, the Miata has much more handling than speed, making it a fine canyon carver, autocrosser or city zip-zapper. If you enjoy modifying cars for appearance or performance, the first generation Miata has plenty of mod options. I'd spend the money on maintenance, tires and gas, though.
Handling. With the right tires and proper alignment, the Miata glues to the road. Fuel efficiency is not bad (for an 11 year sports convertible), as I get 34-36 MPG on the highway. It is also way COOL (literally) to get the top down and enjoy that free feeling.
For the money and the age, there is nothing to complain about. A 2007 Hyundai Elantra will outrun it, but that's not the point, is it?